Home » More Than 55 Global Airlines Still Fly Over Russia, Including to and From the US: ‘a Crisis in the Making’
Featured Global News Global News News Russia Technology Travel

More Than 55 Global Airlines Still Fly Over Russia, Including to and From the US: ‘a Crisis in the Making’

Even though Russian airspace is closed to US airlines, many Americans may still end up flying through Russian skies.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the US and many other Western nations imposed sanctions against Moscow.

This included closing off their respective airspace, meaning US airlines and most European carriers cannot currently fly over Russia — a reality reminiscent of the Cold War.

These airlines are now effectively banned from the favorable polar routes that more quickly connect far-away destinations, forcing carriers to spend extra time and money to skirt borders — or even cut routes altogether.

A graphic showing British Airways' adjusted flight path between New Delhi and London.

However, data sent to Insider from travel data provider OAG, shows some 56 global cargo and passenger airlines are scheduled to fly to Russia in October and will traverse its airspace.

This includes four European carriers: Air Serbia, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, and Belarus’ Belavia. FlightRadar24 cites the airlines’ country’s close relations with Moscow for the continued service.

A handful are also from Africa, like Egyptair and Ethiopian Airlines.

Most of the carriers still overflying Russia, however, are based in Asia and the Middle East — many of which are household names like Qatar Airways, Air China, Etihad Airways, and Emirates.

And, some of these routes are even flying to and from the US.

Emirates’ route between Dubai and Los Angeles takes a northerly path directly up and across Russia before jumping over the North Pole and then turning back south towards the US West Coast, according to data from FlightAware.

Emirates' flight path from Dubai to Los Angeles on September 25 showing it flew over Russian airspace.

And, while not on OAG’s list because it does not directly serve Russia, Air India still regularly crosses Russian airspace on flights between New Delhi and US cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Uzbekistan Airways operates a similar routing between New York and its capital of Tashkent, as does Qatar from Doha.

A handful of flights operated by Chinese carriers between the US and China will overfly Russia on routes to and from the US as well, though the 16 new ones approved since May are detouring around Russia, Reuters reported in August.

Air India, Emirates, Qatar, and Uzbekistan did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Safety concerns arise as foreign airlines overfly Russia

In June, an Air India aircraft headed to San Francisco experienced an engine problem when flying over Russia and had to make an emergency landing.

Passengers, including some US citizens, had to rough it in the remote Siberian town where barely any support was available. Travelers reported there was little food, and the makeshift accommodations looked like a school.

The carrier was later criticized over its decision to land in Russia given its ongoing war with Ukraine, NBC News reported.

The event came after members of Congress urged the White House in February to ban all non-American airlines flying to and from the US from travering Russian airspace.

“The risk to Americans flying over Russian airspace is real, as demonstrated by Russian-backed separatists that shot down a Malaysian Airlines flight, killing all 298 passengers on board, or the government of Belarus, using as a pretense a false-bomb alert, ordered a Ryanair flight over its territory to land so that it could seize and detain a particular passenger,” Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Risch (R-ID) wrote in the letter, which was viewed by Reuters.

Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was shot down in July 2014 using weapons believed to be supplied to the separatists by Putin, international investigators said in February 2023.

Top officials also say the Russian president gave the go-ahead for Belarus to divert a Ryanair plane in May 2021 so it could arrest Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich — a move that received condemnation from countries like the US, Australia, and EU member states.

“What’s going to happen if an airline lands in Russia with some prominent US citizens on board?” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, who has been vocal about barring airlines from overflying Russia on US routes, said at IATA’s Annual General Meeting in June. “That is a crisis in the making, and I think we should solve it before the crisis happens.”

Avoiding Russian skies puts US airlines at a disadvantage

During a February presentation, airline lobbying group Airlines for America said carriers like Air India, Emirates, and China Eastern Airlines are unfairly taking customers from US airlines because they have access to Russian airspace — an advantage that grants them shorter flight times, less fuel consumption, and overall lower costs.

“This situation is directly to the benefit of foreign airlines and at the expense of the US as a whole, with fewer connections to key markets, fewer high-paying airline jobs, and a dent in the overall economy,” A4A told the NYT.

The Times noted fares between New Delhi and New York on Air India and American Airlines at the time differed by hundreds of dollars.

Looking at the time of writing for mid-November, a ticket on Air India is nearly $2,000 cheaper than American. The latter airline needs to spend an extra 90 minutes in the air because it can’t cross Russia.

Screenshot of JFK to New Delhi nonstop flights in mid November. Air India costs $1,521 RT while American costs $3,471.

In its presentation, A4A called on the federal government to take action, noting the problem could cost US airlines a combined $2 billion per year.

This was a particular concern earlier this year when Chinese airlines were using Russian airspace on routes to the US.

“It’s a big issue for us,” Kirby said in June, The Air Current reported.

However, the 16 additional flights approved by regulators since May bring the total to 48 total roundtrips allowed by US and Chinese airlines — or 24 per country.

This is expected to help remedy the competitive disadvantage US airlines were facing, with Delta Air Lines and United both adding flights to China this fall.

The two dozen flights are still significantly less than the more than 150 roundtrips running before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but A4A told Reuters in August it “supports the gradual reopening of US-China air services commiserate with increases in passenger demand over time.”


“Today’s modified Order ensures fair and equal opportunity for US airlines to compete in,” it continued.

Source : Insider